Wednesday, February 23, 2011


There are a few projects before at the moment, some personal and some as a parish, that are taking some deep prayer. You know the parish project if you have been reading the blog. It involves a substantial repair and expansion of our pipe organ.

There are some legitimate questions to ask concerning the project and they weigh heavily on my mind. The most obvious is the use of funds. I doubt that there are more than a handful of parishes in the whole world that has so much in the way of excess funds that they could fund a project like this without noticing it or having concerns about future calamities such as needing a new roof. So should such funds be put out on projects that deal “merely” with art?

And furthermore, should resources be spent on what many see as a luxury when there are people who could use the funds to send their child to your school or put food in their refrigerator? These are serious points to ponder.

On the one hand, we would not have these funds at all if it were not for a special project such as this. They simply would not exist so there’s that. But more importantly the poor need more than food and clothing. The poor also need beauty.

I am in a conversation with an artist at the moment for a personal project. He told the story of how when he was growing up there were no museums in his area and he developed a love of art from his parish church and the art that was there. (That’s the gist of the story anyway.) Now that exposure to art is bringing more art into the world. It is one of the missions of the Catholic Church: to be patroness of the arts. The sandwich which you provide today (which absolutely must be done) will be gone tomorrow. True art will feed the soul for generations.

One of the reasons nobody is producing art that glorifies God is that WE DON’T COMMISSION IT. When we need art we open a catalogue. So less artist make “holy art” because they’ll starve to death doing it. Then a vicious circle ensues. We don’t commission, they don’t make it, we find someone left to do something and they do it poorly so we shy away, and less people make art. . .

I’ve often thought about starting a “St. Luke Society” whose members make it part of their mission to pray for and support artists, support projects particularly of a religious nature, consider commissioning art for themselves, and when buying souvenirs or whatever that they strive to buy something made by local artists as opposed to buying a plastic refrigerator magnet made in the shape of France and produced in China. But I can’t figure out how to make it work. Do you have any ideas? Is there anything out there like that?

Anyway – it is a fine line. When do you order from a catalogue and send the extra money Saint Vincent de Paul (there are times for that) and when do you decide that a piece of art that supports an artist in using his God given talent to give glory to God and benefit to his brothers and sisters, brings beauty to those who will see it, can be educational and inspirational, points to the importance of the idea by the community because they were willing to put forth the resources needed to do it?

There’s no manual for that.


Pat said...


You are presenting a most worthy idea in regard to the promotion of beautiful religious art--if for no other reason than in reparation for such "art" as the "ants-crawling-on-Jesus" video (which our tax dollars paid to display at the Smithsonian).

What is considered art will always be a matter of debate. But we know beauty when we see it.

Margaret C. said...

One way that I have solved the problem of allocation of my money is to simply set aside 10% for charity and spend any other excess on whatever I consider worthy. Mostly books, I admit, but also for beauty that is held in common - as in a church.
One must feed the soul as well as the body.

Adoro said...

I love your idea, FR. V., but don't know if there is a society dedicated to the support of specifically sacred art.

I know from a practical standpoint that people shy away from art because of the expense.

Ever since I began studying iconography and became more aware of the expense of the actual paints, brushes, boards, etc

The one I'm working on now would be worth $800-$1000 when complete but when considering the time put into it as well as the cost of materials - that wouldn't even come close to putting food on my table. Yet to charge more for it would be deemed unreasonable.

(for the record: as I'm learning and this will be far from a work of perfection, it wouldn't be worth that much in my specific case).

But yes...we need to commission true art for our parishes, and we can look at what's always been true and beautiful as a guide. Where have all the Michaelangelos and Raphaels and Caravaggios gone...and the Rublev's?

I think I see more Rublevs in our current culture than Rennaissance or Baroque artists and ironically...rarely in a Roman Catholic Church!

I think we've lost sight of what is beautiful in favor of Ave Maria Gorg statues and marble that has been painted over in the "spirit of the times".

That's part of the battle so yes...a society dedicated to bringing back beauty and supporting true art - very necessary.

Pat said...


One more thought about art for the glory of God: when Judas complained that the perfume "wasted" on Jesus could have been used for the poor, Jesus gave us one of His "hard sayings." He seemed to be telling us that some of our resources can be used directly for His glory, as well as for the poor (who also bear His image).

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art and toured their permanent collection of Illuminated Manuscripts (which will only be on display for another month or so and then stored for a long period of time due to their delicacy to light). They are a testiment to the beauty of religious art, which was also used for prayer and devotion. What a loss if we did not have them to admire and inspire us. Sorry Fr. I don't have any suggestions but I do believe we do need art almost as much as we need food and water to survive.

Anonymous said...

mother Angelical was confronted with the ART vs. food and shelter issues--she was severely criticised for her extravagance..what was she thinking!!think of the poor people who could have been helped if she wern't particular about the wood used for the door that opened into the sanctuary--the real gold used all over the sanctuary site--the unbelievable EXTRAVAGANCE of it all (one could go on and on about this breathtakenly beautiful home she and her sisters painfully provided for their Lord and Saviour)---did mother and her sisters not care about the poor? i think we all know the answer to that--what i learned from Mother was this--what was she thinking about?--she was thinking about Jesus---she was thinking about what he deserved--she concluded that she and her sisters would give only the most exquisite of treasures to their loving Lord---does Jesus deserve any less here at ST. Sebastians--will we decide to provide only what is needed ,or transcend to another level, and remember only the finest musical offering is good enough for our Lord and Saviour.

Catholic in Action said...

Again, I agree with Anonymous above. Recently, I've learned that music is very powerful. I'm in my mid-40's, and what do I remember most about my Catholic upbringing? The music I learned in Catholic school, Bible school, and Catholic Marian award work. That's how I remember most my Bible lessons, my prayers, my close faith to Christ. Let those parishioners give their funds for the organ transplant. I'm part of the poor and my vote goes for art. We need to fill our heart and soul with God's beautifully inspired music. My friend is an artist. Artists need to be encouraged to share their talents for the Glory of God and the salvation of souls. My friend prays before each piece that he paints and gives the Glory to God. He's poor too. Inspire your artist parishioners to share their gifts and talents for God and salvation.